Welcome to Not Another Marketing Podcast where I’m talking to Moe Abbas, CEO and co-founder of Acadium which helps folks start a career in digital marketing through remote apprenticeships. We’re talking marketing jobs, training and how to get more experience.
You need experience to get the job but you need the job to get the experience! This is a huge issue when looking at entry level jobs within the marketing world. How do you get that experience?
In this episode I’m chatting to Moe Abbas, CEO of Acadium which offers digital marketing apprenticeships complete with mentorship so you can start building that portfolio and getting real world experience.
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Transcript (edited for clarity)
There’s two things that have changed the first one is that in the 80s there are very few people who had a degree and if you got a degree out of school, it showed that you are an exceptional person, that you you know, it wasn’t common especially for white collar jobs.
So they were vetted. Like it was, you know, you were going to be a good candidate because of the tremendous amount of work you put into getting a degree which was very challenging. Now with the availability of student loans and the proliferation of junk degrees these degrees that really don’t do anything frankly and people don’t even show up to classes and just get buying this piece of paper, employers are no longer using the degree as a measure of vetting.
They want to see that you have experienced because experience is a lot harder to, you know, BS than, you know, cruising through a junk degree.
So that’s the one aspect is the proliferation of degrees and how everyone has them.
The other aspect is around training. So in the 80s and before, when you joined the company, you’re going to be there for for a very long time, sometimes even for your whole life and businesses were willing to invest in your training because they knew you were going to stick around. Now with social media and the easy ability to apply to job boards and LinkedIn where you can get head hunted super easily as well.
People are switching careers at the drop of a dime, they’re always looking for the next step in their career progression, which is often in another company.
So if you’re a business and you want to take a shot on someone, you’re probably going to go with someone with experience who can deliver results sooner, because the reality is if you take someone and you train them and you do a good job of that in today’s market, they’re gonna take your investment in them and go get a job somewhere else that’s gonna pay them more money right there, just not very loyal.
So those two factors combined now are making businesses ask for experience where they can get more immediate value out of hires and get a better signal on the quality of the air.
Yeah. If you go back as far as the 80s, you kind of like have some sort of progression. You would hire a junior who would get mentored by a senior colleague and then when that senior person left to go and do something even bigger, the junior would take over, and there was kind of like almost some sort of hierarchy and people were learning on the job and you didn’t need a degree, did you?
Yeah, it’s a different kind of beast now. It’s much more fast paced. There’s a lot less loyalty than there was in the 80s and that’s a really big one. I as an employer, we actually had this conversation internally, you know, I had someone on my team who was older and they were under the belief that we should be training and putting more effort into training, that we should hire people that maybe don’t have as much experience, but we’ll we’ll train them up and then my rebuttal was like, I like that idea, but that only works if they’re around for a certain amount of time and what ended up happening is as you expect, you know, it’s it’s risky, like some will stick around, but many did not, many just took that and they literally took the experience, that little, that training you gave them to go get a higher paying job, right?
So you kind of shot yourself in the foot in a way.
Yeah, it doesn’t help with social mobility, does it, really, because if everybody is expecting to join the workforce with a degree, that does to a certain extent exclude some people because of not just finance but attitudes as well, I suppose it stops an awful lot of people from from actually fulfilling what they can do, doesn’t it?
Yeah, I totally agree. You know, if when you look at the apprenticeship system, you were obligated to spend, it depends with trade, but quite often it was like 5-7 years as an apprentice. So you’re underpaid for most of that time, right?
So the employer was like, you know what, I’ll invest in training you because frankly I’m getting a good deal on your labour and very quickly you became, you know, decently productive. And then by the end of the apprenticeship, you’re essentially a master and now you can earn significantly more wages as the master.
So that worked really, really well, right? Like it was a good investment. You know, businesses would invest in their apprentices and the apprentices stuck around long enough to return that investment.
It’s just not the case any more.
I think if we move into the world of marketing, I remember going back a long time ago because I’m old and a marketing job would be an ideal spot for somebody who has not gone to university, but maybe done higher education, maybe got in the UK, we would call them A levels, right? It would be sort of like qualified up to the age of say 18 years old. That was that was the ideal person for the junior marketing position. You didn’t need a degree back then. Do you think too many people are going to university?
Yeah, I mean now you have marketing degrees at the university and frankly they’re just not very good.
You know marketing is a trade that changes very rapidly so it’s all about hands on experience, like what you learn, you can learn about how to run a Facebook ads, but then you really have to manage a significant amount of money and Facebook ads in order to know the nuances about cost per clicks. What’s a good value? What’s bad value? SEO Is another example. You know you should title things properly but there’s a big difference between you know knowing what to do and then actually ranking a page on the first page of google for a keyword.
So with marketing specifically it lends itself to work. You know the the training is significantly better with on the job training. Its the best form of training but even more so with marketing because it changes very rapidly and the theory aspect of it is not super applicable when you’re actually doing the work, you need that experience.
Do you see marketing becoming a bit more specialist? So you would maybe get that marketing degree but then you would dig in a little bit further and you may be become an expert in, I don’t know content or data analytics or SEO, or user experience something like that. Is it becoming more niche?
Yeah it depends. Absolutely. So you know we train more marketers than any school in the world on our platform Acadium. So what we’ve seen is it depends if there’s a bit of a variation, there’s some businesses that require a specialised role. Like I need you to be a content writer. Right? And and that’s what I’m looking for. I know content is a key strategy for my company. So I’m looking for a content writer. A content writer does not need to know how to run paid ads That’s a different skill set and then there’s another type of marketer that’s more of a generalist which is also in demand where they know a little bit about content writing. They know a little bit about email marketing and they’re able to run these campaigns and also manage contractors as well. So they kind of act like almost like a like a CMO but they’re more like a generalist in marketing.
So I am seeing the specialisation in digital marketing and it makes sense like in order to run paid ads. It makes sense in a few domains like paid ads where frankly if you’re a performance marketer, your a performance marketer and that’s what you do and you’re not also a social media manager because that’s a different skill set all together.
But yeah, if I’m a small business I would expect my marketer or do a little bit of both.
I think it’s really easy to waste money on google ads and Facebook ads, isn’t it?
It’s really easy so you really need to know what you’re doing.
You know I call I call performance marketing crack cocaine for the first time. You know we were very heavily dependent on performance marketing and it works but then it doesn’t work. It’s kind of like you have to go to the drug dealer which is Facebook or Google and you know you get a hit and you get high and you feel like oh my god I got this growth, it’s so amazing.
But then you go back again and and the price changes and and they make you run through more hoops and you know you end up being addicted to this thing called Performance Marketing at the mercy of the drug dealers who frankly don’t care about you, you’re just like another another you know addict to them, Right?
So not the best way to go, which is why a lot of businesses come to Acadium because they’re not necessarily looking for performance marketing, they’re looking for more organic content.
They’re looking for smart human beings to help them grow their business. When they get an apprentice through a Acadium and, you know, helps diversify their marketing channels or double down on channels that they know are working.
So, tell me a little bit more about Acadium, How does it help that young person who’s got no experience and needs experience in a certain field? How does it help them gain experience in a real sense?
Absolutely, you know, so it’s two sided marketplace and for our apprentices before they come to the Acadium, they’re caught in a catch 22, they want to launch a career, but they don’t have enough experience to get the first job, but they can’t get experience without that first job and nobody is willing to train them and mentor right now.
And you know, they have different options, I guess they could do like an unpaid internship which frankly they’re not the best option for them and didn’t really work that well. But in Acadium they can come to our platform, they can do coursework, they can do an apprenticeship with the business and specifically, our apprenticeships are structured and regulated, they are 10 hours a week for three months, it’s unpaid and the exchange of value is help for mentorship.
So we’re very explicit in our marketplace, A business can either pay and get one of our trained apprentices, you know, there wouldn’t be an apprentice to help them for pay and they don’t have to provide the mentorship the same way they would to their apprentice or if they’re more cash constrained like a small business owner and there, you know, small business owners wear multiple hats or cash constrained, they need help, but they don’t have a lot of money.
So what they do is in exchange for help from their apprentice, they give them mentorship, this is structured, you know, they provide ratings on the work, they provide structured feedback that our apprentice, they even give them a certification through our platform at the end of that.
So it enables apprentices to get training work, experience relationships with businesses, which is what they absolutely need to know that they could do this job, 50% of apprenticeships lead directly to a hiring opportunity with the mentor they’re working with and many more take that experience to launch a career.
I’ll give you example of an apprentice out of Canada, Kayleigh, she was a sound technician, COVID hit, you know, no more concerts were happening and she’d always wanted to be a content writer, so she started doing some content writing on the side, did a bunch of courses, couldn’t really breaking into the industry and then she discovers Acadium and she’s like, you know what, I’m gonna get some more experience.
She’s super talented, good human being. She did one apprenticeship, she got lucky after her first apprenticeship, her mentor hired her in a full time capacity for content writing.
Now the story doesn’t end there, so Kayleigh did such a stellar job for this business she actually got promoted to director of marketing for the Canadian operation and now she’s even looking to bring on an apprentice herself.
Now this is someone who within one year was able to double their income and launch a new career in digital marketing because of Acadium. And that’s a remarkable thing.
Yeah. How much does this cost the young person?
It’s totally free actually. We just look for people, you know, our mission is to accelerate economic mobility.
We want to enable anyone with an internet connection to launch a new career and we believe that with this mobility we can increase overall prosperity across the economic divide.
It’s getting worse and worse and the underprivileged are the ones that are getting the most crushed and a lot of them don’t have access to these training opportunities, so you know, they get left behind.
So you think this can help with social mobility?
I think absolutely, we have seen this help with social mobility because that’s really important. That’s really important, isn’t it?
It is important because it’s getting worse. You know, the cost of education is getting higher, the outcomes are getting worse and not only that we all know that if you get a post secondary degree, as bad as it is, it does lead to higher paying careers. But what that means is because you can use that to get a job.
But what if you could get a job regardless of where you live in the world, regardless of your socioeconomic status? What if you get access to that same training opportunities? Right?
What kind of world would that look like?
Yeah, I think you mentioned unpaid internship and that’s a big bugbear of mine, I think it should be banned personally. I mean you’re only appealing to the people who have basically got parents who can fund them.
Yeah. Well the thing with unpaid internships and I I think it’s very problematic and we actually say, Oh we apprentices are unpaid, but what we’re solving is unpaid internships because they’re unregulated, you can spend 40 hours a week with a business that has no right, it doesn’t even mentor you.
You could be doing work unrelated to your career. They can trick you into the promise of a job, they can make you travel and have out of pocket expenses. You could be trapped in the unpaid internship cycle forever. You could displace full time employees as well, right? Like people will use unpaid interns instead of hiring someone full time.
So we solve these problems. And you said, you know, there is something very powerful about work experience and the unpaid internships, there’s millions of them around the world and so there’s obviously a great demand, a far greater demand for work experience than exists supply.
So how do we enable an equitable trade of value While also solving these problems that exist in unpaid internships? And that’s where we came up with the structure of an apprenticeship.
So we cap it at 10 hours that we capped at three months long.
There’s coursework, their certifications. The mentors are vetted, there’s an apprenticeship advisor. So we take, you know, all these problems that existed and we solve them in our marketplace.
Yeah. So it’s not, it’s not cheap free labor, which I think is what a lot of internship.
So you got a lot of big companies who are basically hiring cheap labor free. Well we don’t have any big companies in our platform.
They’re all small business donors. They provide the mentorship or, or the partners or a key person in the company. It’s a one on one relationship. It’s not a corporation to intern relationship and they’re all monitored.
So the businesses are rated by their apprentice and if they’re not providing an adequate training experience, we remove them from the platform.
So you, you keep an eye on the mentors, you train the apprentice and can the apprentices use the work that they’re doing to build a portfolio to show to other companies and other businesses.
Absolutely. Our mission is economic mobility. We want them to take this experience and get a job and actually, you know, a big part of our product roadmap is to enable more and more paid work.
So you can imagine a future where where right now, we’re focusing on digital marketing and it’ll be like that for a while but a future where someone who doesn’t have any training or experience can come do coursework, can do some, you know, some small tasks just to see if they like this kind of field can then jump into an apprenticeship and then from there can directly progress into a paid opportunity within a Acadium.
And then even they can even advance themselves in paid work through Acadium as well because we’ll have performance data on how they’re doing. So we’re creating a direct bridge between education and employment.
So can people kind of like try different things. Because you may never have written content, you may never have recorded video for social media or something, but when you do you get the bug, don’t you? Particularly when you’re in your twenties, you get that bug, don’t you?
I think a really big problem with the education system is people are committed to a four year degree in a career path when they’re 18 years old, They don’t know what they want, they don’t know anything. Their brains are literally not fully developed until they’re 25, right?
So that’s a misnomer. And in Acadium what we found is some people, they think they like digital marketing, but they don’t, and the cost of trying is so low right? Like it’s such a low risk to them, They don’t have to travel, they don’t have to commit money, they don’t have to Invest four years of their life into a career they don’t like.
So it allows people to test career paths in a very low friction kind of way
is Acadium Global or is it just kind of like Canada, US maybe, bit in Europ?
It’s a global company. We are English speaking, you know we have a liquidity in the UK, US, Canada, you know Australia, but it is a global company, you know that we have we have can apprentices in Africa, we have apprentices in Asia and South America and north America and Europe.
You know the apprenticeships are remote. Which I think is in today’s world was we started well before COVID, we just, you know, the world just happened to go remote afterwards. But even with, even if it wasn’t, you know, the mission of Acadium is economic mobility and that means access. And by limiting to certain geography, it’s like a physical institution, you are going to be hard pressed to provide access to the people who need it the most.
It’s all about opportunity, isn’t it? If more people were given opportunities, more people would be fulfilling what they can do, wouldn’t they?
Well, that’s just it, you know, and so what does the world look like when anyone has this opportunity?
So there’s a saying that talent is universal, but opportunity is not and we’re just trying to provide this opportunity. More people who are super talented and who are driven and just they need that experience and they need that relationship.
So if I was 22 again, I wish I wish I was, and I wanted to become a social media expert and I was going to use Arcadian. What’s kind of like the process? How do I, how do I join up?
You just come to our website, you create a profile. You know, you want to do a good job with your profile because that’s essentially your identity, and then you apply to the marketplace with your profile.
We actually review all the applications. So every profile that comes in is reviewed manually and then we accept or reject depending on if you have a lot of grammatical errors in your profile, you know, we can tell you’re just not going to take this seriously, so you’re gonna get rejected, but other than that you get accepted into the marketplace and now you have full access, you could do, you know, if you don’t create a profile, used to have access to our coursework.
So if you just wanted to learn about digital marketing, by all means it’s super fun and easy courses that are available on mobile. So you could do them on the go there in bite sized lessons. So that’s super popular, we find and then if you do like what you’re learning, you can then progress to an apprenticeship.
We’re also rolling out a new feature and this is the first time we talked about it publicly called micro tasks, We don’t know how it’s gonna turn out. But for some people that may not want to enter a full apprenticeship, they just want to, you know, just dabble and see if they like this kind of field and you know, just even test the waters, they can pick up tasks and get feedback on specific tasks, you know, like, you know, create a social media blog or a post.
So it’s like a very easy entry point into what then could become an apprenticeship and then so be it, you know, a candidate could do courses, they could do these micro tasks so that there is like a super easy as the course is easy as the micro tasks, intermediate is an apprenticeship.
You know, I’m ready to get paid work at Acadium, can you help me get paid work? And we have a program for that too.
That sounds really interesting because a lot of marketing is lots and lots of little things to do, isn’t it?
We’re excited for this feature. We think it will allow more people access and be more frictionless for people to get started and for businesses as well. They can post these micro tasks and and get instant help.
So we were excited, you know, we just wanna make a platform where anyone in the world can come on and ultimately on the other side, where any business can come and find entry level talent.
Do you offer feedback and things you mentioned about folks filling in their profile and which I suppose it’s kind of like a little bit of a CV, isn’t it?
I mean, we do what we can but probably do a better job about that because I have noticed some people got rejected and they’re not super clear why. So I think we can do a better job at providing feedback when people don’t get accepted to the marketplace, but in the actual work, when they are in the marketplace, the key exchange of value in the apprenticeship is help for mentorship.
So they must get feedback on the work they do from the businesses they work with.